Connor wins as Pegher captures $30,000 title
By Robert WaldenVolunteer Speedway
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (Oct. 22) — After letting a Friday night victory slip away at Volunteer Speedway, Brian Connor of Martinez, Ga., rebounded Saturday to capture the finale of the Fastrak Grand Nationals.
And while Connor was leading every lap, Mike Peger Jr. of Wexford, Pa., posted a solid fourth-place finish that secured his $30,000 Grand Nationals title after the three-race, season-ending event with the Crate Late Model organization.
Pegher topped Robbie Blair of Titusville, Pa., and Friday's winner Lee Cooper of Greer, S.C., in Grand Nationals points to get the lion's share of the $250,000 points fund. Connor wasn't in the points mix, but he was glad to grab a victory after letting Cooper slip by the previoius night on a mid-race restart.
”It feels good to seal the deal and get the win tonight, because we definitely let that one last night slip through our grasp," Connor said. "To be able run as well as we did on back-to-back nights and contend for the win, that’s just awesome, especially when you consider the overall caliber of competition assembled here for these Grand Nationals events."
Cooper, Blair, Pegher and Blake Bentley of Duncan, S.C., chased Connor to the checkers in the 50-lap finale at the 4/10-mile oval.
Connor and Cooper brought the 24-car field to the green flag as the duo raced side-by-side down the front straightaway into the first turn. But Connor assumed the point racing off turn two down the backstretch followed by Cooper, Ford, Pegher and David Watts.
Blair quickly moved up from his eighth-place starting position to pass Watts for the fifth exiting turn four on the fifth lap. With the race running clean-and-green and Connor setting sail out front, he caught the tail of the field to begin lapping cars on the 15th circuit.
With Connor methodically picking off the slower cars, Cooper narrowed the distance between himself and Connor to four lengths. Ford lost a couple of positions when both Pegher and Blair got around him, dropping Ford back into the fifth spot.
Just outside the top five, David Watts, Bentley, Daniel Baggerly, Brandon Umberger, Kenny Peeples Jr., Bobby Mays and Ryan Atkins were battling for position around the high-banked oval. The caution waved on lap 23 when Dan Angelicchio looped his car in turn two.
Connor chose the inside on the double-file restart which put Cooper on the outside of row one. Directly behind them were Pegher and Blair in the second row. Back up to speed, Connor was still riding out front followed by Cooper, Blair, Pegher and Watts, who had gotten past Ford for fifth. Ford lost the sixth spot to Baggerly racing off turn two on lap 27.
By lap 35, Connor had strolled out to a 10-length advantage over Cooper when he closed to cars running at rear of the field. Even though Connor strong, overtaking cars that were racing for position among themselves directly ahead of him proved difficult, with two- and even three-wide action through the corners.
Cooper momentarily closed the gap to within a couple of car lengths on Connor, but the leader finally got past Trent Ivey and Joel Prosser on lap 38 to put them between himself and Cooper. While Connor was in command out front, the last thing he wanted to see was a late-race caution because that would allow Cooper to pull up to his rear bumper for the restart.
But that’s what happened — twice — with the yellow first appearing for a spin on lap 46 to set up a four-lap dash to the finish. Only two laps back green, the caution waved again when Steven Hendren and Jake Eaton spun between turns three and four, this setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
But Connor finished off the victory, his first career in Fastrak competition.
Fastrak Grand Nationals: (1) Brian Connor, (2) Lee Cooper, (3) Robbie Blair, (4) Mike Pegher Jr., (5) Blake Bentley, (6) Daniel Baggerly, (7) Brandon Umberger, (8) Jensen Ford, (9) Kenny Peeples Jr., (10) Bobby Mays, (11) Ryan Atkins, (12) Ryan Montgomery, (13) Max Blair, (14) Steve Hendren, (15) Tim Byrd, (16) Dan Angelicchio, (17) David Smith, (18) Dale Ball, (19) Matt Long, (20) David Watts, (21) Bobby Whitlang, (22) Trent Ivey, (23) Joel Prosser, (24) Jake Heat. Fast qualifier (among 40 cars): Connor. Heat race winners: Connor, Cooper, Ford, Pegher. Consolation winners: Smith, Angelicchio.